A WODONGA man who once put a venemous snake in a woman’s underwear drawer has now been convicted of illegally keeping 21 native reptiles.
David Sinclair returned to Wodonga Magistrate’s Court this week over the reptiles, which were seized from a house at Lakes Entrance.
Magistrate John O’Callaghan fined Sinclair $5000, but said the outcome could have been worse if the protected animals came to any harm.
The case was prosecuted this week by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
“In handing down his penalty, the magistrate pointed out that he could have been facing up to five years’ imprisonment for the accumulation of the 11 charges faced,” department senior compliance officer Leigh Murray said.
The search warrant at Sinclair’s former Lakes Entrance address in April last year uncovered two small White’s skinks, 10 southern water skinks, four Gippsland water dragons, three jacky lizards and two eastern blue tongue lizards — one adult and one juvenile.
“The reptiles were voluntarily surrendered to wildlife officers and have since been returned to the wild,” Mr Murray said.
“The man admitted to illegally taking 17 of the reptiles from the wild and purchasing the four water dragons from an unverified source.”
Mr Murray said it was illegal under the Wildlife Act 1975 to take any native animal from the wild, or to buy native animals from unlicensed, unauthorised sources.
“The majority of the reptiles were found in good health minus one that needed care for a minor injury,” he said.
Sinclair, 36, of Mayfair Drive, pleaded guilty to five counts of taking protected wildlife, five of posssessing controlled wildlife and one count of possessing protected wildlife.
He pleaded guilty in May 2010 over an incident in which he put a copperhead snake in the drawer of a woman he had known for many years but with whom he had got into a dispute.
The snake was usually kept in a reptile container in the lounge room of the Kelly Street house.
Regarding the latest case, Mr Murray said regulations and licences were in place to ensure wild populations of native species were protected.
“To be in lawful possession of all protected native wildlife, regardless of whether a licence is required or not, the wildlife must have come from a lawful source, being either a pet shop or a captive breeder and not from wild populations.”
The maximum penalty for illegally possessing protected wildlife is $7218 and-or six months’ jail and for buying protected wildlife from an unlicensed or unknown source, $34,646 and/or 12 months’jail.
Anyone aware of wildlife being taken or suspected of being taken from wild populations can report this to the department on 136 186.
The department said information could be provided anonymously.